November 9, 2012 by Matt Musico
Earlier this week, the Colorado Rockies finally decided their sixth manager in franchise history would be former Rockie and 14-year MLB veteran, Walt Weiss. As the front office was deliberating which of their four finalists they would choose (with two of them being former players Matt Williams and Jason Giambi), I was sitting on my coach thinking about how the landscape of managing in the Major Leagues has changed so quickly.
For the longest time, teams would be looking to fill their managerial vacancies with a high-profile name (a la the Red Sox and Bobby Valentine last season) or someone that has had recent success elsewhere (a la Art Howe and the Mets in 2003). However, the success of first-year managers Mike Matheny and Robin Ventura are helping transform the decision-making process for organizations needing a new field general. Both of these former players had no managerial experience prior to landing their current jobs, but were able to bring fresh ideas to the table and got their players to buy into their system. It didn’t hurt that they each came in with pretty well established teams and good talent, but teams don’t win games on paper, they win them on the field.
We’re starting to see more and more teams employ this tactic when it comes to their coaching staff. Look at the Diamondbacks coaching staff; with Kirk Gibson leading the way and Don Baylor, Charles Nagy, and Alan Trammell behind him, they’re still able to take the field themselves. Don Mattingly will be entering his third year managing the Dodgers, and now has Mark McGuire as his new hitting coach.
The Miami Marlins are moving from the complete opposite of Ozzie Guillen with the hiring of Mike Redmond, while we just learned yesterday that Tino Martinez will be joining him as the team’s new hitting coach. We even heard the Rockies have an interest in bringing Giambi onto the coaching staff as their offensive guru. So, why are we seeing so many first-time managers and former players who haven’t been out of the game for too long come back to coach and manage so quickly? Baseball is a game of eras, and I think we’re watching a combination of one era ending and another one starting. The old school managers like Lou Pinella and Joe Torre played during a time when the game was not the same from what it is today, and it’s hard to manage a team when the game has evolved into something totally different.
That’s why we’re seeing the next generation of managers that will be on coaching staffs for years to come; they’ve played and experienced the game as it’s evolved over the last 10 to 20 years and know what players today will respond to and what they won’t respond to, even though they’ve never managed before. This is why I think managers like Matheny, Ventura, and even Joe Girardi have been successful during their time in the dugout. Walt Weiss is just the next man in a whole new generation of managing, and even though the only managing experience he’s had was coaching the Regis Jesuit High School baseball team last season, he’s well-respected among his peers, and I think he will be successful.